Disability Rights New York Report Examines Abuse at Elementary School

colorful markers and pencils on a desk with school desks in background

by Andy Jones
May 11, 2017

Disability Rights New York issued a new report April 21, documenting its findings of abuse and neglect at a New York State elementary school, as well as changes the school district has made to address these concerns.

“DRNY uncovered serious systemic practices that put students with disabilities at risk of physical, emotional, and educational harm,” DRNY Executive Director Timothy A. Clune, Esq. said in a news release [PDF]. “North Colonie has taken substantial steps to remedy the more egregious issues and DRNY will continue to monitor North Colonie to ensure the protection of students with disabilities.”

DRNY began examining the Blue Creek School in 2013, but the North Colonie School District repeatedly stymied the investigation. DRNY obtained a temporary restraining order in federal court against the school district in June 2014 to obtain access to certain records, following by a more expansive court order in March 2016, requiring the school to provide the advocates with access to the school’s and students’ records.

The report details how the school regularly resorts to abusive restraint methods when disciplining students with disabilities. This is despite the school’s failure to conduct timely Functional Behavioral Assessments or implement Behavioral Intervention Plans, as required under federal and state law, to assess these students' targeted behaviors.

Furthermore, DRNY disputes many of the school’s definitions when reporting such incidents, restraints students in non-emergency situations, and provides inadequate training, among other criticisms.

DRNY, however, applauded the school for many of the reforms it has made in response to these complaints, including changes in the form for documenting physical restraints and changes to its policies concerning emergency interventions.

“Physical restraints cannot be a substitute for consistent, preventive behavioral interventions," the report states. “Students at risk of restraint or with a history of behavior requiring restraint must have a specific, measurable BIP that is based on a thorough FBA incorporating data from a variety of sources in a systematic manner.

“The failure to develop FBA-based BIPs needlessly exposed students to the use of restraints and the serious physical and psychological injury that can result from such interventions.”

The full report can be read here [PDF].

Disability Rights Washington and Disability Rights New York are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Washington and New York, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.